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Mac fire dept. selected for research project

Chad Frey
The Kansan
The McPherson Fire Department is one of only 250 departments in the nation to participate in a new program.

The City of McPherson Fire Department was one of only five Kansas departments, and 250 departments nationwide, to participate in the second phase of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) community risk reduction pilot program.

"Community risk reduction is a gamut of different approaches," said McPherson Fire Chief TJ Wyssmann. "We have public education approaches, smoke detetor programs and risk assessment. We collect all this information to create data to drive what we need for protection in the city ... it gives us an ablitiy to see how we are doing, where our risks our, how we mitigate those risks and how we plan long term."

The City of McPherson Fire Department has been selected by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to participate in the second phase of a pilot program to build a digital community risk assessment (CRA) tool.

Aligned to NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development, the tool, or “dashboard,” enables community leaders to gain insights and make data-informed decisions around fire prevention and other risk-reduction activities in their communities. According to NFPA, the concept of community risk reduction (CRR) - a process that identifies and prioritizes risks and ensures impactful mitigation initiatives- has been gaining traction across North America for more than 20 years. Innovative technology, access to data, and a shifting focus on prevention have resulted in new energy around this process. Reflecting that momentum, NFPA’s CRA tool works to help fire departments aggregate and disseminate data that pinpoint where risks exist within a given community.

“Access to accurate data will allow CRR leaders to use insights and make informed decisions about where to focus efforts and resources,” said Karen Berard-Reed, community risk reduction strategist at NFPA. “While many fire departments have struggled to work with data sets, NFPA’s CRA tool will do the complex work behind the scenes to compile relevant data allowing stakeholders to create effective community risk reduction plans that incorporate five priorities - education, engineering, enforcement, economic incentives, and emergency response - in the most impactful ways possible.”

The first phase of the pilot project, which included participation from 50 fire departments across the country, helped identify features of the digital dashboard that will work effectively and those that need fine-tuning. During the second phase of the program, which involves participation from 250 departments nationwide, the City of McPherson Fire Department will provide insights around the use of the dashboard through June of 2021 to help continue refining and enhancing its effectiveness.

“Participation in this project allows each fire department to provide important feedback that will be used to improve future versions of the dashboard, positions the community among CRR leaders in the United States, and signals an interest in leveraging technology to drive high-quality community safety initiatives,” said Berard-Reed.

As a participant in the pilot program, the City of McPherson Fire Department will have free access to the dashboard, which includes customized visualizations (maps, charts, graphs) that illustrate each community’s risks and hazards across a variety of categories such as demographics, geography, building stock, economics, infrastructure, and event loss history. The dashboard also provides a snapshot of local capacity for risk reduction activities with information about public safety response agencies and community service organizations.

"it will be a valuable tool to help us decide how we spend tax dollars," Wyssmann said. "Or reallocating tax dollars to where our actual problems are. We do not want to just mimic a program that  for Wichita, we want to do programs that are curtailed to McPherson. We have much different problems than other communities. Every community is unique. That is what this does."

In addition to dashboard access, participants will be provided rich networking and professional development opportunities with other communities engaged in CRR. We are thrilled to be participating in this important project. Not only will access to the tool give us invaluable information about our community’s needs, but it’s rewarding to know that using the tool will increase its effectiveness and help other fire departments in the long run.

Follow NFPA’s CRR efforts on social media using #itstartswithinsights, or for more information online, visit www.nfpa.org/crr.

The National Fire Protection Association, founded in 1896, is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.